The Two Things To Understand About Trump's Executive Order On Social Media: (1) It's A Distraction (2) It's Legally Meaningless

from the the-season-of-dumb dept

We've officially reached pure silly season when it comes to internet regulations. For the past two years now, every so often, reports have come out that the White House was exploring issuing an executive order trying to attack Section 230 and punish companies for the administration's belief in the myth that content moderation practices at large social media firms are "biased" against conservatives.

However, it apparently took Twitter literally doing nothing more than linking to people arguing that Trump's tweets were misleading, to cause our President to throw a total shit fit and finally break out the executive order. This one is somewhat different than drafts that have been floated in the past, though it has the same origins (and, according to a few people I spoke to, this new executive order was "hastily drafted" to appease an angry President who can't stand the idea that someone might correct his nonsense). You can read the draft that get sent around to everyone last night. The final version is expected to be at least somewhat close to this.

To be clear: the executive order is nonsense. You can't overrule the law by executive order, nor can you ignore the Constitution. This executive order attempts to do both. It's also blatantly anti-free speech, anti-private property, pro-big government -- which is only mildly amusing, given that Trump and his sycophantic followers like to insist they're the opposite of all of those things. But also, because the executive order only has limited power, there's a lot of huffing and puffing in there for very little actual things that the administration can do. It's very much written in a way to make Trump's fans think he's done something to attack social media companies, but the deeper you dig, the more nothingness you find.

Let's dig into this clusterfuck of nonsense. It starts out with what might sounds like a sensible argument, if you don't understand the ins-and-outs of Section 230, by saying that because Section 230's "good samaritan" clause requires good faith, that "pretextual actions restricting online content or actions inconsistent with an online platform's terms of service" are somehow not covered by 230:

Section 230(c) was designed to address court decisions from the early days of the Internet holding that an online platform that engaged in any editing or restriction of content posted by others thereby became itself a “publisher” of the content and could be liable for torts like defamation. As the title of section 230(c) makes clear, the provision is intended to provide liability “protection” to a provider of an interactive computer service (such as an online platform like Twitter) that engages in “‘Good Samaritan’ blocking” of content when the provider deems the content (in the terms of subsection 230(c)(2)(A)) obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable. Subsection 230(c)(1) broadly states that no provider of an interactive computer service shall be treated as a publisher or speaker of content provided by another person. But subsection 230(c)(2) qualifies that principle when the provider edits the content provided by others. Subparagraph (c)(2) specifically addresses protections from “civil liability” and clarifies that a provider is protected from liability when it acts in “good faith” to restrict access to content that it considers to be “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing or otherwise objectionable.” The provision does not extend to deceptive or pretextual actions restricting online content or actions inconsistent with an online platform’s terms of service. When an interactive computer service provider removes or restricts access to content and its actions do not meet the criteria of subparagraph (c)(2)(A), it is engaged in editorial conduct. By making itself an editor of content outside the protections of subparagraph (c)(2)(A), such a provider forfeits any protection from being deemed a “publisher or speaker” under subsection 230(c)(1), which properly applies only to a provider that merely provides a platform for content supplied by others. It is the policy of the United States that all departments and agencies should apply section 230(c) according to the interpretation set out in this section.

This, like so much misinformation, has a tiny nugget of truth, buried in a mound of pure bullshit. The nugget of truth: content created by a platform has never been covered by Section 230. That means that the text of the line notifying people that there was more information about mail-in ballots, was a Twitter creation and of course it's liable for that content alone. That's always been the case though. This executive order does nothing to change that.

But nearly everything else here is ridiculous nonsense. Courts have ruled over and over and over again that "otherwise objectionable" covers a lot of ground and the President doesn't get to just change that. Besides, it's beyond evident that Twitter had a good faith belief that its users were better served by providing additional context (additional speech!) to Trump's conspiracy theory. That's a basic editorial function well protected by the 1st Amendment.

Also, importantly, the order that "all departments and agencies should apply" this nonsense interpretation of 230 is... meaningless. Federal agencies don't interpret or enforce Section 230. The courts do that. So what will this actually do or change? Literally nothing.

From there, the President tries to get agencies to "do something," that they cannot do and which would be meaningless even if they wanted to do something anyway.

To further advance the policy described in subsection (a) of this section, within 30 days of the date of this order, the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary), through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), shall file a petition for rulemaking with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requesting that the FCC expeditiously propose regulations to clarify:

(i) the conditions under which an action restricting access to or availability of material is not “taken in good faith” within the meaning of subparagraph (c)(2)(A) of section 230, particularly the conditions under which such actions will be considered to be:

(1) deceptive, pretextual, or inconsistent with a provider’s terms of service; or
(2) the result of inadequate notice, the product of unreasoned explanation, or having been undertaking without a meaningful opportunity to be heard; and

(ii) Any other proposed regulations that the NTIA concludes may be appropriate to advance the policy described in subsection (a) of this section.

So much nonsense to unpack here. First of all, the FCC has no authority to issue such regulations. None, zip, zilch. Part of the ruling in Reno v. ACLU that tossed out all the other parts of the CDA as unconstitutional made it clear that the FCC has no authority to regulate websites. And it's even more ridiculous when you realize that this is being handed to the very same FCC that has sworn up and down, left, right, center, backwards, and forwards, Monday through Sunday and back again, that it has no authority to regulate "neutrality" and doesn't want to have any authority to regulate "neutrality," and even thinking that the FCC might want to enforce neutrality over the parts of the telecom system that it does have authority over is crazy talk and nonsense. So, you have an FCC saying it can't enforce neutrality for infrastructure players (again, over which the courts have made clear it has authority), being told that it needs to enforce neutrality for edge providers (which no sensible person believes it has authority).

Second, courts have long determined that the only reasonable interpretation of "taken in good faith" is to mean that the platforms have a very wide berth in choosing what to moderate. A court cannot second guess that without running into significant 1st Amendment issues regarding compelled speech and anyone's ability to make their own editorial judgments. Third, "deceptive, pretextual, or inconsistent with a provider's terms of service" is again outside the FCC's authority. It might be covered by the FTC, but in a very, very limited way. Making editorial decisions that an immature crybaby with too much power doesn't like is not deceptive nor inconsistent with a website's terms of service.

Third, note the specifics of the order. The NTIA, which the President can command, is told to petition the FCC (which the President cannot command). The FCC need not do anything with that petition. Fluff and nonsense designed to make people think something was done.

Perhaps recognizing how silly the FCC part is, the EO also ropes in the FTC. But this won't get very far either:

The FTC shall consider taking action, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, to prohibit unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce, pursuant to 15 U.S.C. 45. Such unfair or deceptive acts or practice shall include practices by entities regulated by section 230 that restrict speech in ways that do not align with those entities’ public representations about those practices.

First off, the FTC already has the power to prohibit unfair and deceptive acts. So telling the FTC that it should do what it already does is... once again... meaningless. As for telling the FTC to go after platforms for restricting speech... well, that's just blatantly unconstitutional, and the FTC knows it would lose any such case. It would lose badly and embarrassingly. I'd be very surprised if the FTC chose to go through that just for the hell of it.

The entire framing of this section is like a fever dream from all of the failed lawsuits trying to challenge Section 230 by misreading three very important Supreme Court decisions, two of which don't say what many whining people think they say, and one of which they ignore. You'll see the two they misread here:

(a) It is the policy of the United States that large social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, as the functional equivalent of a traditional public forum, should not infringe on protected speech. The Supreme Court has described that social media sites, as the modern public square, “can provide perhaps the most powerful mechanisms available to a private citizen to make his or her voice heard.” Packingham v. North Carolina, 137 S. Ct. 1730, 1737 (2017). Communication through these channels has become important for meaningful participation in American democracy, including to petition elected leaders. These sites are providing a public forum to the public for others to engage in free expression and debate. Cf. PruneYard Shopping Center v. Robins, 447 U.S. 74, 85-89 (1980).

Packingham and Pruneyard are regularly cited by people who don't understand either, to argue that Twitter is a public forum. Courts have shot this down repeatedly. As they should, because neither case says what people claim they say. Packingham was a very important case, in which the Supreme Court said, quite clearly, that governments cannot pass a law that kicks people off the internet. That's it. Note that it applies to governments. It does not apply to private companies.

Pruneyard is a case about whether or not a particular shopping mall had become a public square, limiting the ability of the owners to kick people out. Anyone citing that case to argue that its ruling applies to social media has to ignore (1) the very specific fact pattern in Pruneyard, and (2) multiple cases since Pruneyard that have narrowed that decision down to the point that it appears to apply to just the shopping center in question. And this is made clear in the Manhattan Neighborhood Network case from just last summer, in which the 5 "conservative" justices made it clear that Pruneyard was a special case, and social media would not even come remotely close to meeting the "public forum" standard. For what it's worth, the 4 "liberal" judges dissented on the overall decision, but even their dissent makes it clear that they agreed with the fact that private companies do not turn into public forum bound by the 1st Amendment just by hosting conversations.

This is the case that the executive order totally ignores, despite being written by the most recent Trump appointee, Brett Kavanaugh, and which lays out in painstaking detail, that in order to meet the Pruneyard standard, a website would need to perform a function that had "traditionally and exclusively been performed by government." That's not Twitter. Indeed, Kavanaugh's opinion in the MNN case was a robust support for private property rights, and makes it clear why Trump's executive order is the exact opposite of that:

In short, merely hosting speech by others is not a traditional, exclusive public function and does not alone transform private entities into state actors subject to First Amendment constraints.

If the rule were otherwise, all private property owners and private lessees who open their property for speech would be subject to First Amendment constraints and would lose the ability to exercise what they deem to be appropriate editorial discretion within that open forum. Private property owners and private lessees would face the unappetizing choice of allowing all comers or closing the platform altogether. “The Constitution by no means requires such an attenuated doctrine of dedication of private property to public use.” ... Benjamin Franklin did not have to operate his newspaper as “a stagecoach, with seats for everyone.” ... That principle still holds true. As the Court said in Hudgens, to hold that private property owners providing a forum for speech are constrained by the First Amendment would be “to create a court-made law wholly disregarding the constitutional basis on which private ownership of property rests in this country.” ... The Constitution does not disable private property owners and private lessees from exercising editorial discretion over speech and speakers on their property

In other words, the executive order's reliance on the the completely unrelated Packingham, and completely irrelevant Pruneyard cases, is just more nonsense.

Then the executive order tasks the Attorney General with hassling companies the President doesn't like:

(a) The Attorney General shall establish a working group regarding the potential enforcement of State statutes that prohibit online platforms from engaging in unfair and deceptive acts and practices. The working group shall invite State Attorneys General for discussion and consultation, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law.

Of course, this is already happening with antitrust, and I doubt it will be any different here. Just more bad faith harassment over supposed political viewpoints.

The only thing in the executive order that is something that can be handled by an executive order is a petty and silly decision to maybe, kinda have the federal government stop buying ads on platforms the President dislikes. Except it doesn't even say that. The title says that it's a "prohibition on spending federal taxpayer dollars on advertising with online platforms that violate free speech principles" but that's only the title. The actual details beneath that heading do not say that anyone has to stop buying ads. It just asks federal agencies to waste their time to account for how much they're spending on advertising on these platforms and "assess." That might lead to reduced advertising in practice, but it is not ordered here.

The head of each executive department and agency (agency) shall review its agency’s Federal spending on advertising and marketing paid to online platforms. Such review shall include the amount of money spent, the online platforms supported, the viewpoint-based speech restrictions imposed by each online platform, an assessment of whether the online platform is appropriate for such agency’s speech, and the statutory authorities available to restrict advertising dollars to online platforms not appropriate for such agency’s speech.

This, of course, seems kind of pointless and petty. It's unlikely to do very much, but if it does lead to less advertising, it just harms the ability of the federal government to get out the messaging it wants to get out, so if the President wants to shoot himself in the foot that way, well, that's his call. Of course, you can pretty much bet that as this is happening, the President's re-election campaign is spending gobs and gobs of money on these very same platforms.

Anyway -- this is all a distraction. The polls currently don't look great for Trump and over 100,000 people are dead in large part due to Trump's own mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic. He doesn't want people talking about this, so he does something performative like this instead. It does get people talking about it, and he knows full well that his ignorant base of sycophantic followers will eat this up in the false belief that it actually means something and will somehow "take away" Section 230. It doesn't. It can't. It's nonsense.

Still, it's already working. I've already seen major media claiming that this is Trump "limiting" Section 230 or paring it back, and his fans are jumping up and down, even though the end result of this is not at all what they think it is. Don't be one of those foolish people.

Filed Under: 1st amendment, bias, cda 230, donald trump, executive order, free speech, private property, section 230
Companies: twitter


Reader Comments

The First Word

Looking Forward to My Time on Fox News / Hannity Tonight

Well, as long as Trump is pushing this kind of nonsense, and the MAGA set is full on board...

...I'm really looking forward to Fox News, Breitbart, Alex Jones, et al to finally have to be neutral in their coverage of everything. You see, I disagree with a lot of what Fox News says, so I think I would like to go on the air on their network and say MY truths.

Naturally, if they block me from going on their TV network, or if they have Hannity correct me, or disagree with what I'm saying, then they are unfairly censoring my voice, and impeding my First Amendment Rights to Free Speech.

Naturally, this is fucking insane. But that's the point. Fox News doesn't owe me a TV show. If I ever DID go on the air there, they don't owe me "no commentary" or rebuttal to what I said. They don't owe me shit. My free speech is 100% unrelated to how Fox News does or doesn't broadcasts me - and they don't. They don't owe me a bullhorn, and Twitter doesn't owe Trump @Jack shit.

Hey, everyone. Remember how Fox News was full of shit in their criticisms of Obama when he was POTUS? Remember the fake scandals? Remember how Obama tried to shut them down? No? Me neither. This Trump mofo has worked relentlessly to shut down EVERY agency remotely tasked with checking his power or lies:

  • AGs
  • Special Prosecutors
  • Ethics watchdogs
  • Inspectors General
  • FBI
  • Congress
  • The Press
  • Snopes
  • Politifact
  • Adam Schiff, other committees
  • The Dems
  • The ex GOPs like Amash or Conway or Scarborough
  • The ex-employees
  • The ghost-writer (actual author) of Art of the Deal
  • Subpoenas
  • Testimony under Oath
  • Witnesses
  • Tax Returns

Why would someone go after EVERY, and I mean EVERY entity whose job it is to check him, ensure ethics, and provide daylight?

There's an Occam's Razor at play here. Either A: all of those agencies are in cahoots in the bag against Trump, or, B: Trump is a corrupt liar. MAGAs go with A.

—Derek Kerton

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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 28 May 2020 @ 10:30am

    'Look over there, a distraction from 100K+ bodies!'

    When the law is on your side, pound on the law.
    When the facts are on your side, pound on the facts.
    When neither the law or the facts are on your side, throw a tantrum and sign an executive order.

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    identicon
    Baron von Robber, 28 May 2020 @ 10:33am

    Dolt 45 is doing his best to appeal to Branch Covidians and covidiots.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 12:53pm

      Re:

      Childish name-calling belongs on Breitbart, not TD.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 6:13pm

        Re: Re:

        Jokes about women and little children being burned to death by the federal government are funny to this type.

        Ooh, ooh, Baron, do one about the hilarious Ruby Ridge assassinations!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 10:40am

    I just hope that Twitter do a big F*ck You and add fact check notices on every tweet he sends from now on. They could easily have a small team of 2 or 3 dedicated to debunking Trump's bullshit as this is not content moderation at scale (although he does send a lot of tweets), it is just one person's ranting.

    Facebook needs to grow a pair and do the same, then maybe a few people may actually learn something

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    • icon
      wshuff (profile), 28 May 2020 @ 11:14am

      Re:

      Even easier, Twitter could just provide a link to this article for every Trump tweet mentioning his executive order.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 11:21am

      Fact Check Everything

      Really the big question is why weren't they fact checking his posts 6 years ago. His blatant lies are nothing new.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 5:33pm

        Re: Fact Check Everything

        His lies really? How about mainstream media flat out lying. How about Twitter trying to fact check an Opinion of what could happen in the future with bias CNN reporters? How you can even fact Check that in the first place? All the while the NAACP is complaining about massive voting fraud going on.

        This bill wasn't something written up overnight. You all are watching to much B.S. from CNN and not actually READING THE BILL!!! It'll hold up in court.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 31 May 2020 @ 12:39pm

          Re: Re: Fact Check Everything

          Seriously though, what "bill" are you talking about?

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        • icon
          Tanner Andrews (profile), 1 Jun 2020 @ 6:46am

          Re: Re: Fact Check Everything

          This bill wasn't something written up overnight.

          No, nor was it written by Trump. Far too much articulation, even some mention of case law, in there to be Trump. None the less, it could well be a one-day wonder from an industrious staff member.

          I should probably also mention that it is not a ``bill'', and did not pass through Congress. Rather, it is an executive order somewhat in the nature of a rant.

          ... not actually READING THE BILL!!!

          Read it. And understood that it was not a bill.

          It'll hold up in court.

          To the extent that there is anything tin the order beyond bluster, it is hard to make such a prediction. Mostly prediction is difficult because identifying anything actually ordered to happen, beyond government officials meeting and praising each other, is hard to find in there.

          Until someone can show an actual effect (or, as some might say, ``case or controversy'' and ``standing''), I do not see this mess going to court.

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      • identicon
        Esteban Lara, 29 May 2020 @ 3:33pm

        Re: Fact Check Everything

        Yes Trump lies should have been fact checked long ago.

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  • icon
    Nathan F (profile), 28 May 2020 @ 10:40am

    Proactive Supreme Court?

    I really hope we get some kind of response from SCOTUS without having to wait for a lawsuit. With the childish bickering going on between the Legislative and Executive branches (and the stupidity happening inside Congress..) they really need to have their peer slap some sense into them.

    When a law or executive order is plainly unconstitutional SCOTUS need to stand up and say No. Waiting until someone brings a suit showing harm is a disservice to protecting the rights of the people they are supposed to be serving.

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    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 28 May 2020 @ 10:50am

      Re: Proactive Supreme Court?

      I'm not sure if they can do something like that, but even if they could I really don't see the current lot going so far as to publicly call Trump out like that.

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      • icon
        Nathan F (profile), 28 May 2020 @ 2:00pm

        Re: Re: Proactive Supreme Court?

        The Courts are supposed to be the third leg of the checks and balances. They really should be directly involved in doing just that instead of waiting around till someone gets hammered.

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        • icon
          JMT (profile), 28 May 2020 @ 2:25pm

          Re: Re: Re: Proactive Supreme Court?

          "...instead of waiting around till someone gets hammered."

          That's literally what the SC is supposed to do.

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          • icon
            Nathan F (profile), 28 May 2020 @ 3:00pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Proactive Supreme Court?

            When someone violates the law, sure. But again, if SCOTUS would step in when the other two branches try and pass a law (passes both houses of Congress and the President has signed it) that is patently unconstitutional it would stop a lot of bullshit from happening in the future.

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            • identicon
              Bill Robelen, 28 May 2020 @ 7:30pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Proactive Supreme Court?

              The Supreme Court is limited to active cases and controversies by the constitution. That means they have to wait until someone actually faces injury under the law. Unlike some other countries, our courts cannot issue advisory opinions.

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            • icon
              Thad (profile), 29 May 2020 @ 9:54am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Proactive Supreme Court?

              Yeah, I sure can't picture that being abused.

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            • icon
              Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 1 Jun 2020 @ 1:37am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Proactive Supreme Court?

              "...if SCOTUS would step in when the other two branches try and pass a law (passes both houses of Congress and the President has signed it) that is patently unconstitutional..."

              Wouldn't be possible - see the Masnick problem of trying to moderate at scale for the mechanism which renders this impractical, at the very least.

              You'd need to expand SCOTUS by several orders of magnitude and then tell them their job was to sit and pore over every bill passed in the houses for ways in which said bill could violate the constitution.

              Instead what you have is a system where congress can legislate whatever they want and citizens who find their rights to be affected can go to court and eventually have SCOTUS make a ruling which might send the entire bill back to the senate floor for a do-over.

              It's not perfect, but it's what usually works.

              What is missing is that any congressman and senator whose bill failed to pass SCOTUS should have a public record of how many of their bills proved so bad SCOTUS had to toss them out.

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              • icon
                Thad (profile), 1 Jun 2020 @ 10:07am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Proactive Supreme Court?

                You'd need to expand SCOTUS by several orders of magnitude

                How would that help? Supreme Court rulings need a majority. If you had 9000 justices instead of 9, that wouldn't mean more people dividing up the labor; it would just mean that a majority ruling would be 4501 people instead of 5.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 10:59am

      Re: Proactive Supreme Court?

      Like the way you pull aside an unruly child in a supermarket and scold him?

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 12:25pm

        Re: Re: Proactive Supreme Court?

        This toddler needs to be taken out of the store completely. A time out in a corner for 10 - 20 seems like a good idea.

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    • icon
      Tanner Andrews (profile), 1 Jun 2020 @ 6:48am

      Re: Proactive Supreme Court?

      I really hope we get some kind of response from SCOTUS without having to wait for a lawsuit

      The U.S. Constitution bars such a thing, requiring what are sometimes called ``cases and controversies'' before the Federal courts even have jurisdiction.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 10:57am

    Sounds like he came very near to ordering himself to stop using Twitter. Probably had to backtrack a bit.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 11:13am

    You can read the draft that get sent around to everyone last night. The final version is expected to be at least somewhat close to this.

    That they leaked a draft of it is telling in and of itself. I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't sign anything once the shock of 100,000 lives lost on his watch wears off.

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    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 28 May 2020 @ 11:32am

      He’d first have to care that 100,000 people died on his watch in the context of lives lost. He only cares about that number in the context of how it’ll affect his reëlection chances.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 1:35pm

        Re:

        I am very much not a fan or supporter of Trump.
        However, I have a great deal of difficulty accepting

        over 100,000 people are dead in large part due to Trump's own mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic.

        It's a statement intended to lay the full blame for those deaths at Trump's feet, when critical decisions were being made all the time: by him, by the CDC, by governors, legislators, individual doctors, even airline screening staff ("what, you're coughing? Here's some cough drops. Enjoy your flight."). You say "largely", knowing that people will "largely" gloss over it.

        And you've got the magic of mathematics - time, infection rates, etc, to put any number you want in there. 100,000 today, 100 million three years from now, whatever. Small changes in initial conditions cause great changes in the result over time. We can say "probably some of those people would be alive today", but we can't even come close to saying how many. Or whether it meant they would survive the pandemic or whether it was merely a stay of execution.

        Accusing him of having some undefined portion of responsibility in deaths that could "definitely have been prevented in hindsight" sits raw with me. Me? I would rather condemn him over those careless words that resulted in deaths directly attributable to him. (Aquarium chemicals, bleach, the people who suffer or die because the drugs they need are being hoarded for an unproven (later disproven) benefit)

        He’d first have to care that 100,000 people died on his watch

        Now that, though, is 100% true. They died, he was president at the time.

        On the other hand, I have difficulty with the argument, "those other people who died during that time period, they die like that every day, so we won't count them. These people who died from the disease, they were special."

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 28 May 2020 @ 1:51pm

          It's a statement intended to lay the full blame for those deaths at Trump's feet

          “Leadership consists of nothing but taking responsibility for everything that goes wrong and giving your subordinates credit for everything that goes well.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower

          Like it or not, Donald Trump sits at the top of the federal government. That makes him the so-called leader of the free world — and, whether he likes it or not, the leader of the entire United States. His subordinates certainly share in the failures of the COVID-19 response. But Trump put those people in their positions, for which he must accept responsibility as their leader. He has also shown a distinct lack of leadership in this crisis — including a lack of trying to mitigate the spread of the virus until it was too late and a lack of trying to bring the country together in a time of crisis — thanks largely to his narcissism and lack of empathy. (Remember, he didn’t want to let infected people on cruise ships come into the U.S. because it would’ve raised the number of cases.) And none of that even gets into his promoting dangerous “cures” or “treatments” for a disease that he thinks will magically disappear by November.

          Donald Trump didn’t personally kill the over 100,000 Americans who’ve died from COVID-19. But his lack of leadership has forced the responsibility for those deaths upon him anyway. If he doesn’t like that, he can stop trying to play leader and resign.

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          • identicon
            Esteban Lara, 29 May 2020 @ 3:43pm

            Re:

            As leader Trump is responsible for what happens especially because he chose the people who made the decisions that made the Corona virus spread faster. Trump made a lot of decisions that made the virus spread faster. He eliminated many anti virus protections.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 2:19pm

          Re: Re:

          You may not be a fan of Trump, but you are certainly (whether deliberately or not) one of his apologists.

          Trumps words and actions both before and during the current outbreak in the US have worsened the response and thereby caused deaths. Before the start of the pandemic he weakened the CDC's ability to respond to a pandemic (among other things, by directly or indirectly causing a CDC observer in the Chinese CDC to be withdrawn mere months before the disease flared up in Wuhan). He has muzzled or fired anyone who didn't agree with the usually terrible statements and advice he was spewing on twitter. He has used the "bully pulpit" to fight against governors who try to follow the best medical advice available, encouraging and empowering nutjob protesters who want their world to return to normal, immediately regardless of the cost to others. He has pushed the use of hydroxychloroquine with absolutely no supporting evidence and at best mixed results in the few test since run (and good reason to strongly suspect that it is actually harmful on average). He has even talked about injecting disinfectant which even if a metaphor or joke was incredibly irresponsible. He has staffed management pannels with cronies and relatives who, in this area, are simply not competent, and got rid of more than one competent expert who wouldn't do or say what Trump wanted and wouldn't help him deny reality. He has made sure that vital supplies are directed to friends and followers rather than the disease hotspots that desperately needed them.

          Trumps actions have, beyond any remotely reasonable doubt, led to more deaths than would not have happened if he had simply done and said nothing, never mind is he had actually been a competent president.

          And finally, no, the covid deaths were not "special" because they were caused by a pandemic - they were avoidable by competent governance, as several governments ranging from totalitarian to democratic have shown. The US accounts for roughly a third of world-wide deaths from this disease despite have only about four percent of the world population. Trump has played a large role in attaining this appalling statistic by sheer incompetence. Again, not because they were special, but because they were, to some extent avoidable.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 5:16pm

          Re: Re:

          "Leadership: whatever happens, you're responsible. If it doesn't happen, you're responsible."
          -Donald Trump
          https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/398887965302091776?lang=en

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 29 May 2020 @ 7:01am

          Re: Re:

          "It's a statement intended to lay the full blame for those deaths at Trump's feet..."

          And it should. He's the president and the minimum expected performance from him would be to meet a burgeoning pandemic with a best-effort approach.

          Instead what the US got was;

          "Covid isn't in the US, won't be coming here, and isn't that dangerous to americans"

          "Covid may be in the US but it's not a threat and harmless compared to the common flu"

          "Oh, look, I'm #1 on Facebook and Twitter!!! What, Covid? Not sure, might be over next week..."

          Now sure, we can't say just how many americans wouldn't be dead if Trump hadn't gutted the CDC emergency response team, steadfastly ignored or silenced anyone who tried to tell him there was a real threat, or at the very least if he had just shut the fsck up and given Doctor Fauci - the actual expert - the floor.

          But it's a fact that if the US had reacted the way Germany did, or a number of other european countries, or Taiwan, etc...then the death toll would have been significantly reduced.

          Trump is certainly to blame because he didn't make ANY decisions other than trying to deny everything the same way he used to convince skittish investors right before defrauding them and leaving them to face the collapse of the latest joint venture. It's what he does. And has done for about 40 years.

          Now that he's president his old trick of persistently lying about the situation and denying there's a problem cost actual lives.

          Truman got famous for saying "The buck stops here!"
          Trump is famous for his "I take no responsibility at all"

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        nunya, 28 May 2020 @ 6:39pm

        Re: 100,000

        100,000 is 0.03% of the U.S. population. Don't get me wrong, 100k is a large number of people, but the number of people who die each year is 280k, so if at the end of december, the number is close to 280k, then the 100,000 number is meaninless. If, however, its close to 380k, then, and only then can you make blanket statements. You should also note that the U.S. House of Representatives controls the purse strings, so any spending over-and-above agencies budgets would have to be provided by the House.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 29 May 2020 @ 5:26am

          Re: Re: 100,000

          Uh-huh...

          Biden/Obama were a disaster in handling the H1N1 Swine Flu. Polling at the time showed disastrous approval numbers. 17,000 people died unnecessarily and through incompetence!
          --Donald J. Trump

          So when you compare 17,000 dead due to "incompetence," what do you call it when there's 102,000 dead?

          I'm all for getting rid of "blanket statements" - like leadership, that starts at the top, doesn't it?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 11:14am

    Will the next bigot thrown off of social media use this order to launch a lawsuit against the company. Trump supporters are dumb enough to believe that it enables them to win, and Trump will likely encourage them to harass the social media companies.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jesse, 28 May 2020 @ 11:47am

    One hand clapping

    Unfortunately? The move to silence Twitter by executive order shows… er… a lack of thought. A silenced Twitter would leave the POTUS speaking (or not typing) to a blank wall, as there would be no Twitterers to follow. Ah well, as Tommy Smothers said, “The only valid censorship of ideas is the right of people not to listen.” Shutting down Twitter would provide the ultimate deaf ear.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Tim R (profile), 28 May 2020 @ 12:14pm

    My personal favorite part of all this nonsense is how he complains that social media is not evenhandedly applying their terms of service to all of its users. You know, like that time where they kicked off an abusive sycophant/narcissist for harassing people with vitriol and misinformation (Alex Jones), but haven't kicked off an abusive sycophant/narcissist for harassing people with vitriol and misinformation (Donald Trump).

    Oh, the humanity.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), 28 May 2020 @ 1:01pm

    Looking Forward to My Time on Fox News / Hannity Tonight

    Well, as long as Trump is pushing this kind of nonsense, and the MAGA set is full on board...

    ...I'm really looking forward to Fox News, Breitbart, Alex Jones, et al to finally have to be neutral in their coverage of everything. You see, I disagree with a lot of what Fox News says, so I think I would like to go on the air on their network and say MY truths.

    Naturally, if they block me from going on their TV network, or if they have Hannity correct me, or disagree with what I'm saying, then they are unfairly censoring my voice, and impeding my First Amendment Rights to Free Speech.

    Naturally, this is fucking insane. But that's the point. Fox News doesn't owe me a TV show. If I ever DID go on the air there, they don't owe me "no commentary" or rebuttal to what I said. They don't owe me shit. My free speech is 100% unrelated to how Fox News does or doesn't broadcasts me - and they don't. They don't owe me a bullhorn, and Twitter doesn't owe Trump @Jack shit.

    Hey, everyone. Remember how Fox News was full of shit in their criticisms of Obama when he was POTUS? Remember the fake scandals? Remember how Obama tried to shut them down? No? Me neither. This Trump mofo has worked relentlessly to shut down EVERY agency remotely tasked with checking his power or lies:

    • AGs
    • Special Prosecutors
    • Ethics watchdogs
    • Inspectors General
    • FBI
    • Congress
    • The Press
    • Snopes
    • Politifact
    • Adam Schiff, other committees
    • The Dems
    • The ex GOPs like Amash or Conway or Scarborough
    • The ex-employees
    • The ghost-writer (actual author) of Art of the Deal
    • Subpoenas
    • Testimony under Oath
    • Witnesses
    • Tax Returns

    Why would someone go after EVERY, and I mean EVERY entity whose job it is to check him, ensure ethics, and provide daylight?

    There's an Occam's Razor at play here. Either A: all of those agencies are in cahoots in the bag against Trump, or, B: Trump is a corrupt liar. MAGAs go with A.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Cowardly Lion, 29 May 2020 @ 2:48am

      Re: Looking Forward to My Time on Fox News / Hannity Tonight

      I can think of a few more...

      • Educators [he threatened to crush his college if they ever released his grades]
      • Doctors [his goons broke into his doctor's surgery and removed his medical records]
      • Businesses [he's bilked on many contracts, threatening with reprisals if they sue]
      • Ex-wives [had to settle with Ivanka, who alleged rape]
      • Porn Stars [nuff said...]

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jesse, 28 May 2020 @ 2:38pm

    EO signed

    Censorship begins? It is utterly amazing Americans haven’t the intestinal fortitude to remove this nascent Hitler.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      DebbyS, 28 May 2020 @ 4:46pm

      Re: EO signed

      "...to remove this nascent Hitler." Which Americans are you talking to, and how do you propose this "remove" be accomplished other than (citizens?) voting in November? Folks who recommended such "removal" probably have at least a half dozen ways to do it legally (and dozens of ways to do it otherwise). Please list those legal ways and any urls to valid sources that will help readers understand your advice and how this "remove" should be done.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 6:20pm

        Re: Re: EO signed

        Be interested to see this as well.

        Their biggest shot was the legal one a few months ago. But that … ended badly for them. Also helped set the groundwork for it ending badly for them in November.

        So, Jesse, what's next?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 29 May 2020 @ 7:17am

      Re: EO signed

      "Censorship begins? It is utterly amazing Americans haven’t the intestinal fortitude to remove this nascent Hitler."

      It's perhaps fortunate that Trump is fairly inept compared to Hitler. That said it's a good thing the US isn't quite at the point where the Weimar republic was at.

      But give it time. Numerous president from both sides (and a congress corrupt past the rafters) have worked damn hard to ensure that 20 years down the road the conditions might be similar.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Glenn, 28 May 2020 @ 4:03pm

    "Distraction" and "meaningless" ...add "treasonous" and you've got Trump in a nutshell.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 4:04pm

    It's just an emotionally stunted, small minded, malignant narcissist, orange faced blond tribble wearing vile little man child throwing just the sort of tantrum you expect from a five year old.

    Can you imagine what what happen if Twitter said, "Fuck you!" and cancelled his account? Not that they would dare remove a cash generating pile of steaming bullshit like The Donald, but it would be interesting.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 4:17pm

    See if you can do anything beneficial with it....

    It's seems like another "malicious cyber enabled activity" related order.

    If you can't do anything about it... then you can't do anything about it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Hausjam, 28 May 2020 @ 6:00pm

    I am no fan of Trump, but it’s difficult to take seriously a blog like this with such a biased writer who resorts to profanity and name calling.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 6:21pm

      Re:

      First encounter with Techdirt, I see.

      You thought the article was immature, wait'll you start reading the comments!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 28 May 2020 @ 6:57pm

      Act like a child, get treated like one

      When someone says or does something incredibly stupid they deserve to get called out and mocked for it.

      When what that person said/did has a chance to impact a great many others and that person is not just a government official but the US president they deserve it even more.

      And lastly when their words/actions are clearly nothing more than a tantrum mixed with empty performance art to distract people during a disaster then they deserve all the mockery they get.

      Don't like reading articles calling Trump out for the tantrum throwing idiot he is? Stop reading or whip up a miracle that gets him to stop doing stupid things that earn him the mockery.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 8:36pm

      Re:

      So you're holding other people to a higher standard then the President of the United States?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 May 2020 @ 5:32am

      Re:

      Would it have not gotten your shorts so tied in a knot if he referred to him like this instead?

      Crazy Trump
      Low-IQ Trump
      Liddle Donny Trump
      Low-energy Trump
      Lyin' Trump
      Sleepy Donny Trump
      Basically Braindead Trump
      Goofy Trump

      Would that be more inline with "acceptable name calling?"

      Sometimes I think you guys are just gaslighting. Other times I think you're really that stupid.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Rico R. (profile), 28 May 2020 @ 6:17pm

    Not that he could do so anyway, but this is also true!

    ***Insert Roll Safe meme with the caption, "The President can't tweet if he shuts down Twitter!"***

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Nick Richards (profile), 28 May 2020 @ 6:24pm

    Remember Trump's Vile Distraction - Klausutis Family victimized!

    Trump spread a conspiracy theory about a DEAD WOMAN, just this past weekend. The family objected, and Trump ignored them. And happily Twitter added a "get the facts" feature.

    Now he's distracting us all with a "fake tantrum" he surely knows is fake. The author of this Tech Dirt post proves its fake. There is more to this story...

    Don't forget: Hold Trump accountable for his disgusting abuse of the DEAD Lori Klausutis and her family.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Thad (profile), 29 May 2020 @ 9:52am

      Re: Remember Trump's Vile Distraction - Klausutis Family victimi

      Now he's distracting us all with a "fake tantrum" he surely knows is fake.

      I'm pretty sure the tantrum is real.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2020 @ 7:53pm

    To be clear: the executive order is nonsense. You can't overrule the law by executive order, nor can you ignore the Constitution.

    That's easy to say, but hasn't this shit been going on for like a hundred years already? The Supreme Count did, for example, uphold the executive order removing Americans with Japanese ancestry from the west coast. It's of little comfort to get an apology 30 years later, or have a Supreme Court judge say it was a mistake. Modern SCOTUS upheld Trump's "Muslim travel ban".

    Executive orders, in practice, apparently need to go pretty far overboard to get struck down. Courts give way to much deference to the President (BTW, deliberately chosen as a humble title, because they were supposed to preside over the people actually running the country). We wouldn't have 13000 such orders if they didn't work.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 29 May 2020 @ 7:53am

      Re:

      We wouldn't have 13000 such orders if they didn't work.

      He didn't say they don't work, he said they legally cannot override statutes or the Constitution. But in order for that to be enforced, someone harmed has to bring suit, and the court has to make a correct decision, which they don't always do.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 29 May 2020 @ 4:00pm

        Re: Re:

        the court has to make a correct decision, which they don't always do.

        And that's the worry. Courts including SCOTUS have upheld vile laws in the past. The idea of "let Trump write what he wants, because it's meaningless" is a risky one.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          nasch (profile), 29 May 2020 @ 4:19pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          The idea of "let Trump write what he wants, because it's meaningless" is a risky one.

          Yeah but phrasing it that way implies that there is someone who can stop him from writing. Neither Congress nor the public can prevent him from writing EOs. All that can be done is challenge them in court after they're written.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    CaesarAlan, 29 May 2020 @ 1:25am

    Be careful what you wish for...

    So it's a problem when "an action restricting access to or availability of material ... [is] ... inconsistent with a provider’s terms of service"? Good to know.

    Guess that means he's ordering Twitter to get right on with sanctioning him for his many and egregious ToS violations?

    No, sorry. My mistake. I momentarily forgot that would require intellectual honesty.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    James, 29 May 2020 @ 1:57am

    twitter trump

    Wow I thought you could see the forest, but just keep talking about trees

    The whole BS is about "VOTING FRAUD" SO FOCUS ON
    NOT THE POINT

    THIS WHOLE UNITED STATES WILL BE OVER WITH MAIL-VOTE- FRAUD, AS YOU SEAM TO WISH
    GOD HELP YOU

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Glathull (profile), 29 May 2020 @ 2:01am

    Ummm maybe read section 230, Mike.

    But seriously, I don't know why people even bother to get upset about Trump's bullshit at this point.

    He's a fucking clown. Yeh, he said a thing, someone put it in writing for him, he might have even remembered to sign it before leaving the room to jack his hair off. but you know, seems unlikely. And it doesn't matter.

    Pretend 18-D chess move, Trump knows he's going to lose, so he hands this off to liberal judges to deal after he is gone.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Thad (profile), 29 May 2020 @ 9:53am

      Re: Ummm maybe read section 230, Mike.

      But seriously, I don't know why people even bother to get upset about Trump's bullshit at this point.

      Because he's the fucking President of the United States.

      We're not talking about The Apprentice here.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    techflaws (profile), 29 May 2020 @ 4:36am

    This, of course, seems kind of pointless and petty.

    Which is a fitting description of the covidiot in charge.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    vadim (profile), 29 May 2020 @ 5:32am

    Question for legal minds

    Given that "governments cannot pass a law that kicks people off the internet"
    It seems that judge's order restricting access to internet to the defendant in let say hacking case, is also illegal...
    Or am I wrong on this?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Rocky, 29 May 2020 @ 6:30am

      Re: Question for legal minds

      The first one infringes an innocent persons rights, the second one is a consequence of a person doing something that's against the law which means until it's resolved that persons rights can be curtailed to some extent.

      Without the ability to curtail a persons rights in legal situations you would essentially neuter the law and anarchy would reign.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Stephan Kinsella (profile), 29 May 2020 @ 5:55pm

    ignoring the Constitution

    "To be clear: the executive order is nonsense. You can't overrule the law by executive order, nor can you ignore the Constitution."

    Well... I dunno. The entire CDA, including the sec. 230 safe harbor, is unconstitutional (there is no power enumerated in the Constitution for Congress to overrule state defamation law, for example).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    restless94110 (profile), 31 May 2020 @ 1:20am

    Distracting?

    It may be distracting for you, but it's just what was needed at this time period. It might not be legally binding, but as a general proclamation it will be influential. It's time to make social media a free speech zone. Trump has thrown down the gauntlet. That's never distracting and it's never meaningless.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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